Of the millions of photographs taken at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, it was a ‘selfie’ which really caught the public’s eye — and almost sent Twitter into meltdown. Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama cosied up to Danish leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt while she took a snap of the trio on her mobile phone.
The impromptu photo came around two hours into the four-hour-long ceremony to remember the former South African leader, prompting criticisms that it was unprofessional at such an event. Mr Cameron even had to defend himself during Prime Minister Questions in the House of Commons, saying: “In my defence, I would say that Nelson Mandela played an extraordinary role in his life and in his death in bringing people together. So of course when a member of the Kinnock family asked me for a photograph, I thought it was only polite to say yes.”
While the British media generally voiced disapproval of the episode, the Danish press focused on the global headlines their PM had created.
Here, two writers give their opposing views on the debate and three well-known local people tell why they often post selfies on their social media accounts.
WHAT'S ALL THE FUSS? WE KNOW POLITICAN CAN'T RESIST A BLONDE
BY MALACHI O'DOHERTY
The sight of David Cameron and Barack Obama squeezing close up on either side of the Danish Prime Minister, a fetching blonde called Hella Thorning-Schmidt, is reassurance that our boorish political leaders have a sense of fun and — as we already knew — egoes the size of the moon.Which is fine.
They should be human and that includes being playful and flirtatious, though their image-makers think they appeal to us better if they are formal and drab.
As for the selfie itself — the picture that Ms Thorning-Schmidt took — what paper wouldn't pay money for it? It will probably go into her memoirs.
A closer look might clear up the suspicion that one of her knees is hairy and that that is actually someone's head caught in the shot. Those knees were probably part of the reason Cameron and Obama were happy to lean into her.
Often when leaders are caught off guard being natural, they betray their cynicism, as when George W Bush's microphone picked up 'Yo Blair' at the G8 Summit in St Petersburg in 2006.
But the three in the selfie were at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela and some will say, should have shown more respect. Had they been caught out taking selfies at a service, say, in Westminster Abbey, the scandal would would be reverberating round the globe. But that's not the kind of occasion it was. There are cultures in which funerals and memorial services are more relaxed than in Britain.
Brass bands play at Indian funerals where the deceased is over 80, and if you don't get a laugh at an Irish funeral, there is little point in going.
Caught in a moment of playful vanity, Cameron, Obama and Thorning-Schmidt remind us not to take them too seriously. That's a good lesson.
As for my own selfies, I can never quite get them to catch that balance of good cheer and sagacity that all my close friends know is the truth of my deeper nature.
THESE THREE DIDN'T JUST EMBARRASS THEMSELVES, THEY EMBARRASSED US ALL
BY FIONOLA MEREDITH
Quick question: what age is Barack Obama? Or David Cameron? Or, come to that, the Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt?
Because only if each of them was 15 years old, or younger, would their embarrassing behaviour at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela be even half-way justified. And even then it would still be rude, ignorant and highly inappropriate to the sombre occasion.
The fact that all three of them are not only sentient adults (supposedly), but leaders on the world stage made the whole thing even more ridiculous.
Where was the gravity and |respect for the extraordinary man whose passing they had come to mark?
I can't look at the picture of
the three of them posing for their silly selfie without inwardly cringing. There's Helle pouting in the middle, with Dave and Barry looming in on each side, big, goofy, gormless grins on their faces.
I'm not surprised that Michelle Obama, sitting to her husband's left, clearly wanted no truck with such nonsense.
She sat apart while the three world leaders giggled and snapped and generally disported themselves.
Various pathetic excuses have already been made.
David Cameron said he only did it because Thorning-Schmidt is married to former Labour leader Neil Kinnock's son, Stephen, and it would have been rude to say no.
Yes, Dave, that cheeky big girl made you do it, we understand, it wasn't your fault.
Others have claimed that Mandela himself would have approved of such youthful light-heartedness. But that's neither here nor there.
This wasn't really about |Mandela himself, but about the dignity of high office.
This trio of miscreants weren't just embarrassing themselves with their juvenile behaviour. They were embarrassing us all.
PICTURE THIS... OR PERHAPS NOT
* Alice Sheffield’s picture from her hotel room as she prepared for her wedding became an instant worldwide hit when it was posted on Instagram by her half sister. For napping in the background, bare-footed with his ministerial box beside him was Prime Minister, David Cameron.
The Tory leader was about to become Alice’s brother-in-law as she is half sister to his wife, Samantha. He had just returned from the G20 summit in St Petersburg when the picture was taken.
* The queen of the selfie, Kim Kardashian, took Twitter by storm in 2013 by posting a selfie of her post-pregnancy bum.
The reality show star later explained the picture was originally intended for her boyfriend Kanye West. She posted it on Twitter as a ‘middle finger’ to the world calling her fat during her first pregnancy. It’s certainly not the first time Kim has posted revealing pics. She’s known for publishing selfies from backstage at photoshoots.
* Another star fond of the selfie is Corrie actress Helen Flanagan.
On Monday night she posted a picture of herself in the bath, glass of Champagne in hand with only the bubbles covering her modesty.
LOCAL WHO HAVE STRUCK A POSE...
Stephen Nolan (40) is a BBC broadcaster best known for his current affairs chat shows on Radio Ulster, BBCNI and Radio Five Live. He says:
I'm not one for selfies, but I did put up one recently. I just came out of the dentist after two root canals and treatment for a chipped tooth because of all the sweets I eat. With me being the needy person I am, I wanted everyone to see the pain I was in, so I put up my selfie. The reaction was not very pleasant.
When you post anything on Twitter, you're putting yourself out there for ridicule.
Seeing David Cameron and Barrack Obama taking selfies puts them in a different light.
It gave a wee insight into how, at the bottom of it all, they're the same as the rest of us.
Michael Conlon (22) is an Olympic bronze medal-winning boxer who lives in Belfast. He says:
I do put up selfies. I think they're like capturing little memories that you can look back on.
I don't mind what I put up — as long as it's funny, then I'll put it up. I like that you get to see what's going on in other people's lives.
Mandela's funeral was a bit of a celebration, so I don't think a picture like that with David Cameron and Barrack Obama acting as friends is a bad thing.
Jim Allister (60) is the leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party and MLA for North Antrim. |He says:
I put selfies up if someone has taken the picture and it's relevant to what's going on. I'm not a junkie for that sort of thing, though, I don't just put them up for the sake of it.
I'm sure there's an appetite in this media age for putting everything online, but I do think politicians have something of an obligation to maintain something of decorum.